During the 2012 Legislative Session, the Legislature approved a FY2013 public education budget that includes about $41 million to cover new-student growth and a 0.92 percent increase in the WPU (both restricted and unrestricted). This increase should be adequate to cover increased costs in Social Security and retirement, but is unlikely to fund any employee salary or health care cost increases. Overall funding increased $117.3 million, with $83.2 million ongoing and $34.1 million one time.
“We had great hope coming into the session, with the support of the business community and others, that more emphasis could have been placed on increased funding for public education,” said Gallagher-Fishbaugh. “It’s disappointing that cost-of-living allowances for teachers were not included in the public education base budget.” Ultimately, each local will negotiate any potential salary adjustments with their school district.
The Legislature also approved $5 million for teacher supply money, the same amount and distribution formula as this year and $2 million to continue the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Elementary Arts Program, a reduction of $2 million from this year. At the last minute, $800,000 was added for dual-language immersion programs. The state guarantee for the local property tax levy was increased from $25.25 to $27.36.
The Weighted Pupil Unit (WPU) value increased from $2,816 to $2,842 for most programs (unrestricted). The WPU value for the Special Education Add-on and the Career & Technology Add-on programs increased from $2,577 to $2,607 (restricted). Combined, the change in WPU values results in a $24.6 million increase.
Last fall, Gov. Gary Herbert announced a recommended FY2013 Utah state budget that increases state public education spending by $111 million, for a total public education budget of $2.5 billion. His budget calls for $41 million to help cover an anticipated enrollment increase of 12,500 new students and another $21.5 million to add 1 percent to the WPU. According to Herbert, the WPU hike will allow school districts to give many teachers their first salary increase since 2007. Other new allocations in the Governor’s budget proposal include $10 million for early intervention programs, $12 million for expanding student adaptive testing and $2 million for charter school start-up funding.
The business-led Prosperity 2020 coalition released a statement in December 2011 urging the Legislature to “make public and higher education the most urgent priority” for funding. The statement requested a strategic investment of $127 million in new money for public and higher education.
The Governor’s office announced in November that it expects a $280 million increase in ongoing tax revenue for next fiscal year, plus a one-time surplus of $128 million.